Tuesday, 18 July 2023
Subjects: Premier Dan Andrews’ disastrous decision to cancel the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria
Shadow Minister for Sport, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston: Well, Australians have got every right to have woken up this morning and feel pretty disappointed by the decision by the Victorian Government, by Dan Andrews, not to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games. It is extraordinary given Australia's international sporting reputation - over 100 years as being the place to hold international events - and in one single stroke this morning, Daniel Andrews has ruined that reputation.
But it's also particularly concerning that the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has tried to distance himself from this decision, saying it's not a problem of the Commonwealth Government, it's not a problem of him or his Minister for Sport, it's a problem for the Victorian Government. Well, I say to the Prime Minister - Australia's international reputation has been damaged by the actions this morning of the Victorian Government and you should be very worried about the damage that this does to Australia's international reputation. And you should be coming out and actually taking responsibility, because it's not just Dan Andrews' lack of leadership, it is also a lack of leadership by the Federal Government to make sure that Australia's international reputation is not damaged in the way it has been this morning.
We were also very concerned this morning to hear Daniel Andrews say that this is an issue of finance, it's an issue of budget. Well, he's already said that he's going to continue to deliver the really expensive parts of putting on the Games, and that is building the legacy infrastructure of housing, the sporting facility upgrades and the tourism package. The only thing he's not going to be doing is actually delivering the Commonwealth Games, and that's the very part of this investment that actually provides the return on investment. It's where the athletes, their families, their teams and the spectators all come in from overseas. It's the opportunity to showcase our great country and the state of Victoria. He's not doing that, but he's actually going to still, apparently, deliver all the other infrastructure. So I would say that when we dig into the numbers of the announcement this morning by Mr Andrews, you will see that he's been very loose with the truth and very rubbery with the figures that he's provided to Australians.
And we saw Commonwealth Games Australia come out and question and doubt the figures that have been put forward. We also saw the Commonwealth Games Federation say – 8 hours notice by the Victorian Government for trashing and stopping the Games. That is a disgusting exhibition of the contempt that the Victorian Government, and by association the Federal Government, holds international sporting bodies like the Commonwealth Games Federation.
This is a terrible decision for Australia, but it's also very disingenuous and I think as we dig into the decision this morning, which we will do through our Senate inquiry, you see that the Victorian Government is hiding its incompetence behind a smokescreen of saying this is a budget blow-out.
But it also brings into question future sporting events for Australia. We've got a runway of sporting events, whether it be the Netball World Cup, the Rugby World Cup and of course the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. What does this say for them? That governments - state government - can just rip up host contracts and walk away and leave Australia's reputation in tatters, and the chances of us being successful in future international events being brought into question?
But today, I just want to say my thoughts go to the athletes, the young Australians who have been training so hard to put on the green and gold and play on their own home turf, because we know there is nothing like being an international athlete and getting to play at home in front of your own crowd. To all those people who have jobs on the Commonwealth Games, who woke up this morning and found they no longer have jobs. For all those people in rural and regional Victoria who thought they were going to have the opportunity to showcase their amazing communities to the world. All of them have been let down by the decision by Daniel Andrews today to no longer continue to host the Commonwealth Games, and by the Prime Minister for his failure to show leadership and support the communities in Victoria, support our Australian athletes and support a whole generation of young Australians who were looking forward to seeing their athletes perform in 2026 and hopefully be able to aspire to participate in sporting events themselves sometime into the future. Today is a very sad day for Australian sport.
Journalist: If you could just sum it up in one soundbite - one quick 10 second grab - Dan Andrews' decision today, what would be your message to the people of Victoria and Dan Andrews?
Senator Ruston: I would say to Dan Andrews, you should be very ashamed of what you've done to Australia's international reputation, the damage you've done to Australia's great athletes, and the damage you've done to the regional communities that you made election promises to.